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Australians are becoming more scam aware: CBA

Over 70 per cent of Australians have become more concerned about scams over the last 12 months than previously, according to the Commonwealth Bank.

Australians are becoming increasingly scam aware according to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) with almost three-quarters of Australians (73 per cent) stating they have become more concerned about scams in the past year.

The figure was a 16 percentage point increase on the same statistic 12 months earlier, when almost three in five Australians said they had become more concerned about scams over the last 12 months.

The increased awareness was attributed to anti-scam initiatives and awareness campaigns conducted by both financial institutions and government organisations.

Anti-scam programs implemented by CBA have so far included:

  • NameCheck - provides customers making a first-time payment an indication of whether the account name and details entered look correct.
  • CallerCheck - supplies customers a notification to their CBA app to verify if a call is from the bank, from November 2022 to August 2023 it was used by 420,000 customers.
  • CustomerCheck - allows customers to verify their identity when visiting a branch through a security notification in the CBA app so customers do not need to reveal identifying information about themselves in an “open branch environment”.

The lender’s research also found that, between January and June 2023, CBA customer losses decreased by 37 per cent compared to those recorded between July and December 2022.

James Roberts, CBA’s general manager of group fraud management services, said the reduction in losses showed the impact anti-scam initiatives were having on customers.

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Mr Roberts stated: “It’s positive news that Aussies are growing more aware of scams and what they can do to stay safe.

“The increased awareness and decrease in the overall dollars lost by CommBank customers over the period is encouraging. However we all have more to do, including continuing to strengthen our defences across all financial institutions, telcos, government, social media and digital platforms to protect Australians from the terrible impact the scammers have.”

Fellow major bank NAB has also been focusing on scammers and their impact on customers and is reportedly “monitoring customer accounts 24/7 for signs of suspicious activity, as well as working with telcos to significantly reduce spoofing scams that are targeting [its] customers”.

Earlier this month, Westpac released data that found the number of reported scams from customers under 18 years old had “almost quadrupled since last year”.

Due to this, the major bank has been encouraging parents and guardians to speak to their children about staying safe online and accessing its parental and youth controls available in Westpac’s app, which includes the ability to apply and manage payment restrictions on your child’s account.

Westpac general manager of financial crime and fraud prevention Chris Whittingham said the data showing scammers targeting children was concerning.

He stated: “It’s really alarming to see such a big spike in the number of scammers tricking young people into sending compromising information online. Scammers will then use this information to extort money from the victim, often requesting a number of small payments over a period of time.”

Australia one of the most hacked countries in the world

Australia was recently found to be the fifth most hacked country in the world by density, according to Grant Thornton cyber security expert Chris Watson.

Speaking at the Tax Summit 2023 in Melbourne earlier this month, Mr Watson stated that Australia had 15 leaked accounts per minute, with over 1.9 million breached accounts over the second quarter of 2023.

He said: “Cyber crime is affecting businesses up and down the country. But not every organisation can survive the cost, the financial losses if they’ve had to pay a ransom and the cost of what’s being called cyber resilience, which is the time it takes to get back up.

“You have to pay lawyers and PR expenses – the cost to an organisation is significant.”

It follows Australia having lost a record $3.1 billion to scams in 2022, an 80 per cent increase on total losses recorded in 2021, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

What’s the government doing?

To combat the surge in scammers, the government in July officially opened its National Anti-Scam Centre (NASC), which brings together expertise and resources across government agencies, law enforcement, and the private sector to act as “the first line of defence in the fight against scammers”.

The federal government also introduced the Identity Verification Services Bill earlier this month to support the operation and security of identity verification services and protect the privacy of Australians.

At the time of the bill’s introduction, ABA chief executive Anna Bligh stated it was “a step in the right direction in the ongoing fight against scams and fraud”.

Ms Bligh added: “As scams grow ever more complex and sophisticated, Australia needs all sectors to continue the fight against financial crimes – this includes government, banks, telcos, social media, law enforcement, crypto platforms and individuals.”

Consultation on the exposure draft for the Digital ID Bill and Digital ID Rules was also released by the government last week, which it said should “enshrine additional privacy safeguards” and extra protections around sensitive data.

[Related: Lending industry welcomes new identity services bill]

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